In a common affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court in multiple petitions relating to the February communal violence in the Capital, the Delhi Police has alleged that one of the motives of the anti-Citizenship Act protests that preceded the riots was secession.
Explaining “the motive and the idea behind this conspiracy,” the affidavit claims the protestors wanted to “to go to any extent possible, be it a small scuffle with the police during blockade or instigation of riots between two communities or to advocate and execute a secessionist movement in the country by propagating an armed rebellion against the lawfully constituted government of the day.”
Protests erupted across India in December soon after Parliament amended the Citizenship Act, introducing a religion test for Indian citizenship for the first time. One of the common motifs during the protests was the Indian Constitution. Protest sites often displayed photos of Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar. But in affidavit, the police claim a conspiracy lay beneath “the facade of a civil disobedience/protest”.
The police filed the affidavit on July 13 in response to a clutch of petitions, including one from activist Harsh Mander, seeking action against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma for making alleged hate speeches and inciting violence in the city.
But the police maintained in the affidavit that they have not yet found any “actionable evidence” against these leaders. “As such, as and when substantial and cogent evidence of involvement of the aforesaid persons in the commissioning of any offence surfaces, the Delhi police will take suitable steps in the already registered FIRs,” the document before the High Court said.
Protest at Jafrabad
The affidavit states that 750 first information reports and 200 chargesheets have been filed relating to the communal violence that gripped North East Delhi in February, with 1,430 people arrested, as of July 11.
As it has done in multiple chargesheets, the Delhi Police in the affidavit squarely blames the anti-CAA protests for the violence.
The flash point, according to the police, was the blockade of the Jafrabad Metro station on February 22, which it alleged was a response to a call for a nationwide bandh by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad.
This protest, the culmination of a series of agitations starting December 15 near the Jamia Millia Islamia university, was planned with the motivation to polarise Hindus and Muslims, the affidavit alleged. “These blockade points were so chosen that non-Muslims population got trapped on roads and in colonies,” the affidavit said.
Further, the anti-CAA protestors deliberately escalated their protests on February 22, with an eye on the upcoming two-day visit of United States President Donald Trump, claimed the police. The protestors wanted to portray the government as “anti-Muslim”, damaging its international reputation, the police claimed.
On the conspiracy, the Delhi Police said:
“a holistic view of all the three phases and the investigations which have been conducted so far in individual FIRs and the leads which the Delhi Police have been able to ascertain, clearly demonstrates that the present incidents of violence were not instigated in a spur of moment or because of any tensions between two communities for an obvious religious cause, but were carefully engineered and funded by mischievous elements and fringe groups, who, in pursuit of their motivated hidden agendas, instilled a false fear and panic in the minds of a section of society and provoked/ instigated them to take law and order in their hands and resort to violence. “
Kapil Mishra’s speech and violence
Even though the police maintain that “no actionable evidence” had been found yet to link the speeches of the BJP leaders to the violence, the sequence of events narrated in the affidavit point to Kapil Mishra’s role in mobilising crowds and raising hostilities in North East Delhi.
The affidavit states Delhi Police received information of people gathering around 3 pm on February 23 at Maujpur Chowk, about 750 metres away from the anti-CAA protest site at Jafrabad metro station, to demand that the road be re-opened.
As widely reported in the media on February 23, Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader who had contested and lost the Assembly election earlier that month, had mobilised the crowds. In a speech that was captured on camera, he had served an ultimatum to Delhi Police asking it to evict the anti-CAA protest sites in the area, otherwise his supporters would.
The Delhi Police in the affidavit said:
“Several attempts were made by police to diffuse and control the situation but the Anti-CAA and the opponent faction which wanted vacation of road and re-opening of metro station did not obey the lawful directions of the police to disperse peacefully rather they indulge in rioting, creating acute law and order situation in the area. [emphasis added]
The police said the group that demanded the opening of the metro station was adamant and set the dispersal of the anti-CAA agitators as “conditional precedent” for their dispersal.
The Delhi Police did not mention Kapil Mishra or the other BJP leaders by name. Instead, the affidavit said that the police had contacted two local leaders to ask the crowd to leave the spot. The affidavit said:
“To take adequate measures considering the proximity between Maujpur Chowk and Jafrabad Metro Station’ and also due to mixed population of Hindus and Muslims in the area surrounding Maujpur Chowk, the Delhi Police contacted the local leader to call off the assembly at Maujpur chowk who had given the call to assemble to demand re-opening of carriage way of 66-Foota Road and the Jafrabad Metro station’
Another leader from the area was also contacted to call off the proposed assembly.”
In contrast, the affidavit mentions former JNU student leader Umar Khalid by name. “A video of Umar Khalid has surfaced, in which he was seen inciting Muslims to come on roads in maximum number during the visit of U.S. President,” it states.
The police in multiple places in the affidavit reject the claim that the anti-CAA protests were peaceful in nature. Nothing could be further from truth, the Delhi Police said, claiming that the anti-CAA agitators indulged in unprovoked violence.
On the demand for putting out all the FIRs in connection with the riots in public, the police said they have been declared sensitive to protect the identity of the complainants and witnesses.